How To Combat Dive Fear.

We’ve all been there, there’s been a dive only minutes away and you’re scared. Not the normal, excitement / jittery kind of butterflies – that’s a healthy dose of fear that keeps you sharp and makes sure you double check your equipment. No, this fear is just plain sick to the stomach, not feeling the dive kind of fear.

It happens. Sometimes you can’t explain why. Sometimes you can. When I was training, I was scared so much of the time I honestly thought I wouldn’t make a diver. I wasn’t feeling any sense of calm at all and diving was becoming a list of assessments; courses that I needed to pass and it was overwhelming. I felt like I didn’t have time, or a buddy, to go on a pleasure dive and take the time to just be still in the water and learn to be calm there. Baring this in mind, to help overcome fears I have a little list because sometimes you still need to face your fears to get rid of them. So here are a list of things that hopefully can help someone else overcome their fears.

Before a dive if you are scared;

  1. Take the pressure away. You never have to get in the water, even if you are on a course as opposed to a pleasure dive, you can always come back to the course / dive site when you are more confident and comfortable. The is one rule a diver is told at the beginning of the course “A diver can call a dive at any time, for any reason”, if you don’t want to go in, you don’t even to have give a reason, other divers will understand. At the end of the day, diving is for enjoyment. If you aren’t enjoying, why go? There will always be other opportunities. Once you take that pressure away, it’s easier to relax.
  2. Check your equipment. Yes you do buddy checks but as you’re putting all your equipment together just check your regs work, smell your air and make sure there is no wear and tear in any of your equipment. Even a very quick perusal of your equipment as you’re setting up will remind you that everything is in working order and your mind can rest easy.
  3. Talk about what is scaring you. Chances are a fellow diver can talk you through it and has probably even felt the same at one point or another. If they haven’t, just airing you fears can help you feel better because it’s no longer bottled up inside of you.
  4. Keep your skills fresh If you know you are trained and you recently went through your skills, in case anything went wrong, you know you can deal with it. Preparation should make you feel more confident to go on the dive so (amongst other skills)make sure you are never afraid of filling up your mask and clearing it, or taking out your reg and replacing it.

And if you’re scared while diving?

  1. Breath. This is key. Not for survival but for you to focus on something other than your fear. Try to think about the breaths, notice when you breathe in and breathe out. Realising you are breathing can ground you enough to signal to your buddy that you want to end the dive.
  2. Look around. Most people dive to see incredible things and it’s amazing what you don’t see when your mind is focused on fear. I missed so much as a newbie diving from being scared; my instructor took me back in the water at one point because I had missed a particular fish we had all been circled round admiring, because I hadn’t even noticed it! That was also the day I learnt what surge was – I was simply too focus on “just getting through the dive” I didn’t take the time to appreciate something as simple as the way the water moved around me. Besides, if you see something interesting – and you are very likely to – it can not only take your mind off the fear but that’s why you’re diving! Sometimes you need to take a moment and look around to remember the reason why you are there.
  3. Have a minute. I do this a lot. I signal to my buddy that I want to look around, or pause. In the beginning I asked for this moment a lot. Take the time to stop swimming and just stay stationary. Here you can either breath, or think about what scares you and how to deal with that. Look to your buddy for reassurance and if you aren’t reassured this is the chance to decide whether or not you should be underwater. That moment is for you to think about the situation you are in, and what you want to do about it. A buddy will understand if you need / want to call a dive, or take a minute. .
  4. Be realistic. I repeat, a diver can end a dive or refuse to go on a dive whenever they want. If you’re are feeling overwhelmed in the water you have a decision to make. Do you want to carry on with the dive? Do you want to signal to your buddy or do you want to get out? Fear can become panic very quickly though. This needs to be a very REALISTIC decision. Ask yourself if your fear is too much? There is no shame in ending a dive early. A buddy would rather you end a dive safely and calmly than have to take control because you hit panic mode. If you don’t think you can carry on with the dive, do end it. Being a panicked diver is not nice. All thought goes out your head at that point (I know this from experience), when your only though is to get to the surface it’s instinctive and frightening. Stop yourself from becoming a panicked diver by making the decision early enough that you need to be on land and try a dive another day.

 

The last piece of advice I can give if diving scares you – don’t give up! If you want to dive don’t worry, it might take you a lot of dives to become comfortable in the water but you will, if you carry on. Just keep your buddy informed, remember to keep smiling and take it at your pace. Diving is a hobby – that means it’s your adventure to explore at your pace.

I hope this helps 😊

 

Lil Scuba Diver

Advertisements

50th Dive – Take One

Some things don’t go to plan. My fiftieth dive certainly did not!!

It’s been just over a year since I started and I’ve done a lot of training dives so while I’m talking about my 50th dive, it’s not all pleasure diving. I intend my fiftieth pleasure dive to be as epic as I can make it 😝

I’ll set the scene. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been thinking I need my regs servicing. On testing my regs on land the primary usually needs the first exhale to be a little stronger than normal, then it seems to pop and be alright. It was so trivial that before this January I never even thought it was a problem. Until my January club dive. I couldn’t exhale, it was very weird. I could breathe in but not out. I passed it to my buddy who also couldn’t breathe out but it did eventually ‘pop’ and while strange I still went diving.

Afterwards I started to worry and I rented regs for another dive with the intention of getting my own serviced; only when I explained it to the shop they said that the exhaust can get stuck and it was nothing to worry about, I don’t need a service for that. I washed my regs out and rocked up at the usual Capernwray ready for my dives 49 and the big 50.

Surface test before dive 49 and my primary is fit as a fiddle, not a problem. Thinking my washing them out made it alright, I kit up. Only the Octo goes into free flow at the slightest scrap on the floor when I was lifting the cylinder. My buddy stops it free flowing. It goes into one again and she stops it again. I’ve seen so many divers bang their reg and go for the dive that I thought it wasn’t worth worrying about. Dive 49 was uneventful. We got lost. We usually do 😝 I need to do the navigation course really but I know I’m so bad with a compass I won’t pass it! As my favourite instructor said, “Maybe that’s why you need to do it then.” And well yes, that’s true but nope I’m not doing the course until I can read a compass without needing a refresher beforehand.

So anyway, no other problems at all. Nothing. We get our friend who had just passed a course and as a trio of buddies we all plan a dive. The aim was to see a helicopter but with our navigation skills and my dodgy ears that make descending a little slow, I come up with the idea:

Long surface swim to the other end of the quarry and we can use the buoy to indicate where the helicopter is, I can use the shot line as a reference for a super slow descent so my ears play along, and then we have full tanks ready for an exploration of the helicopter and a bimble back to the other side of the quarry.

It sounds good doesn’t it?

My friends aren’t too happy about this surface swim. I swim a lot so I’m barely noticing the distance but they weren’t up for this idea again. Anyway, just, I repeat for effect, JUST, as we get to the buoy and are about to drop down onto the helicopter my octo goes into free flow and it didn’t want to stop. We’re still on the surface so as I’m watching my needle turn from 220 bar to 150 bar I’m also asking my buddy to turn my air off.

We tried to turn the air back on but no, my octo was still free flowing the moment air was turned on and then it froze up all near the cylinder where it connects. One of my buddies got her gloves stuck on the iced-up metal. I didn’t have half as much air as the others so the dive we planned wasn’t really sensible for me do. I had to abort my own 50th dive!

Bless, I told my friends to descend and enjoy the dive, I’d make my own way back as it was only a surface swim but good buddies don’t leave one another and since one is starting her Dive Master, they wouldn’t let me swim back on my own. So, the two who hated the surface swim, ended up doing it twice to see me safely back on land. That’s good though, it just makes me trust being buddies with them so much more. They really did try to help me out with the free flow as well.

So, there we go, eventful in an uneventful way. I wave bye to my buddies as they go for a dive (with a closer attraction and no surface swimming) and I’m left to walk back to the car with the ‘Padi Smile’ AKA – if it goes wrong, smile anyway 😃

And things do wrong. Some dives are not meant to be. The helicopter is still a mystery to me but I’ll see it another day. But it’s also a lesson. I should have got my regs serviced. I am very grateful that we did a long surface swim because had we not, that free flow would have happened during the dive and we would have been about 15m down. I don’t fancy a real free flow underwater. On surface was bad enough -free flows are very loud!!

The entire quarry of people heard our conversation back, we were told by club members but in our defence, we had to entertain ourselves somehow during the trek back!

There isn’t much else to say. It was the usual haunt we went to but I didn’t see anything to share with people. Hopefully some UK sea diving will be next on my agenda. I’m just grateful that this time I remembered to fastened my dry suit before I put my cylinder on – that was my eventful moment for dive 47!

Some dives don’t happen – you just have to smile and plan the next one instead!

 

Lil Scuba Diver

A Diver’s Life

Coming back from a club meeting with my friend I proudly announced that it may be 11pm on a Thursday night but I have mask defog in my handbag! You certainly know you lead a diver’s life when you have mask defog in a generally handy place just in case you forget to put it in the dive bag later on.

I have dive kit in my living room. It’s in the process of being moved to its own special place somewhere in the house but there’s a lot to kit and equipment, so it’s ended up dotted around here, there and everywhere. If anyone came to my house there would be no doubt what my hobby was.

I only started to live by a diary when I started diving and yes, before making any plans I make sure there is no diving based activity already in there. Nothing can clash with a club meeting, a trip, a club dive or a dive holiday! Oh and definitely not a Diver’s Get Together, the social events that might not include diving but do include plenty of alcohol and chatting! 😀

My bookcase has diver manual’s mixed with my other books. Proof of the courses that I’ve done. I have dive membership cards in my purse and an extra card holder with my qualification cards. Also my credit card is strategically placed – right next to the diver membership cards. You know, because you can’t be a diver if you haven’t maxed out a card on some really important (colourful / new) gadget!

I have dive magazine’s everywhere and stop to stare at them when I see them in the shop, just to see if it’s an issue I already have or need to buy. I get excited when I see underwater news.

It doesn’t take long to adopt the diver’s lifestyle but once you find out you have the little things cracked you’ll find you can’t go back – and all your friends are in no doubt about that raincheck, they know where you’re going!

 

Lil Scuba Diver

 

First Dive Day of the New Year

Owning an expensive dry suit is serious motivation not to put any weight on! I did that many butt clenches trying to get it over my Christmas pear shape, I don’t need to do squats for another month! Or maybe that’s exactly the reason why I should be doing them. J Either way, Christmas down, dress size up but when I got into 7 degree water today I was very glad of my extra winter blubber!

7 degrees is definitely thermal under suit weather. It’s also hood, gloves and thermal socks weather – the joys of cold water diving. Wearing a drysuit is pretty cumbersome at the best times but with gloves and thick thermals getting my fins on looked a little comical when all my flexibility vanished.

But I wouldn’t have got in the water any less dressed.

Speaking of which, I hadn’t dived in two months, the last time being the fireworks night where my suit flooded and I missed the underwater fireworks. Imagine my surprise then, when after so long I put my feet in my dry suit to find my thermal socks instantly wet! Another lesson learned: If a dry suit floods – it’s very difficult to get the inside dry. This suit had been drying upside down over a door frame 2 months ago and that’s not to mentioning that it had already been upside down and shook about when half the quarry was tipped back out of it!

Never mind though, it’s always good to start a cold dive with a short sharp shock – just to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into! 😀

I was on this dive with a friend and her dad, or rather I joined them and promptly introduced them to another girl I had dived with previously. My usual dive buddy wasn’t able to get time off work, so after two months of no diving, I’m going again next week and even better, this time we are rallying the troops.

There’s a little group of us now.

When I brought my friend to the club meeting only a few days previously, I was surprised at how many people I knew and was chatting away to. It isn’t often I can walk into a room and start waving and conversing with different people but I loved it. And now with my dive buddy’s help my second dive day of 2017 is already planned.

Hopefully for my second dive day I won’t have a cold. Luckily it wasn’t so bad when with my friend and her dad but I found it quite embarrassing when descending. I literally needed to stop for a while ever 0.3 metres because my ears were being stubborn and not equalizing.

Oh and it was very cold! Unfortunately my thighs decided to grow a little bit over the last few months so my thermal trousers didn’t fit like I wanted them too – there was no room for any movement at all :O So I was in a thermal top with thermal socks but then leggings. At the beginning I was stood around a little bit waiting in the water and honestly it was a tad painful to the legs. I started trying to move around a bit but there are no subtle movements with fins on! And then on the descent, I thought my top lip was going to freeze up into an ice cube. I’ve never appreciated a dive hood quite like I did on that day!

So my total dives are now 46 and I’ve already enquired into the price of some extra dive planner pages. I’m still in the logging dives stage which actually came in handy when I needed to look back at a previous dive to see what I wore and what weight I used. I’ve even acknowledged my navigation is so terrible I need a compass (one that’s not attached to my gauge). I took the brave step of asking how much I’m looking at and in this expensive sport, pricing up dive gear really can take your breath away.

With my second dive day due soon I can honestly say that I’ve started the year as I mean to continue, and that’s with excitement and weather defying adventure.

So, to those reading this, I hope you have a wonderful 2017 and to my fellow divers, hope you get some brilliant dives in this year J

 

Lil Scuba Diver

Burgled as I Leave for Finland!

Well it’s the first time I’ve ever walked around an airport with not a single penny in my purse! It felt very odd putting my passport and boarding tickets in my bag but no money. I forgot my toothbrush in the chaos that reigned the morning of my birthday trip to Helsinki.

So, I find out on a Sunday that I’m going to Helsinki on the Thursday for a 5 day city break especially for my birthday. Excitement!! I’ve wanted to go to Finland since my first year of university which is now five years ago. I started listening to a band called Apocalyptica who play rock music on cellos. After hearing an interview with them I decided I loved the sound of the Finnish language but the more I researched the country the more I fell in love with it. Google images has some lovely photos of it as well – and now so do I. J

So it’s a last minute thing for me, I’m running round the house finding jumpers and dashing to the shops for some boots and the all important socks! Part of my birthday present wasn’t just the flight but was also spending money, already exchanged into euros, so I didn’t have to worry about money considering I only had 4 days to prepare. It was such a lovely gift! It was my 25th so such a trip was to celebrate me turning a full quarter of a century! This kind of present is not normal, don’t worry i’m not rich, just old! 😛

Anyway, I’m always last minute so at quarter to 2 in the morning I’m finally getting into bed for a quick few hours before my 5am alarm. Only I’m woken up before my alarm to some sounds that scare me but in my sleepy, not yet awake state I think it’s just one of the family up before me for work. That is normally, normal. But as my first alarm goes off I start to realise today isn’t a normal day. I’m going to Finland, I’m meant to be the first one out of bed. So why would anyone else be walking around the house? Then a family member really does get up, goes downstairs and is only downstairs for mere seconds before coming up to wake us up. We had been burgled and I had heard it.

Well the vulnerability you feel at that moment. How stupid I felt for not realising what was happening because I was in that dozy, in between state and finally, the fear set in. It’s scary to think someone came into your house while you were sleeping.

I won’t go into detail, I don’t want to relive that night to be fairly honest but they left my passport and flight tickets. Only they took my euros and my purse which had about £10 worth of English money in it, for breakfast at the airport. It also had my bank cards in it. So yeah, no cash and I had to cancelled my cards which meant I had no access to the money in my back because my flight was due to take off before the banks even opened… oh and no euros. I thought my holiday was cancelled.

But no!! Fear not, I got there! 😀

People clubbed together to get me there and I had internet banking and a brill friend who let me transfer bits of money over to his account so I had money. Still, walking through the airport with no money or cards on me was slightly bizarre! I felt rather spontaneous, living life on the edge deciding to “wing it” as me and my friends call it 😀

So I end up re starting the day with a lovely Marmalade Muddle cocktail, shared with my friend in the airport. We almost miss the flight because I’m making phone calls checking up on the situation back home but we got there, running a little but we made the flight!

We land in Helsinki and get a bus to the city centre, these are every 10 minutes or so and easy to spot, literally outside the front doors, big and white with FinAir on written on the side. 6 Euros 30 (I have no euros sign on my keyboard) is a single way and we’re off. 25 minutes later we’re in the town centre and I’m buzzing! I can’t believe I’m actually there. We go for a quick drink in the first pub we saw to get our bearings and work out in which direction our hotel was. A whisky and coke cost us 9 euros and we felt well and truly ripped off….. until we later found through experience that this price is actually the average. Give or take a few cents nearly every drink in Helsinki is this price. It was made a little more expensive for us because due to Brexit the exchange rate is £1 to 1 euro, so whereas I pay £2.85 for a whiskey and coke in my local pub back at home, suddenly the equivalent of £9 had my eyebrows disappearing a little! But I didn’t let that stop me drinking! We were careful but had fun!

I slept in every morning. We planned to get up and go exploring but we were so tired that the holiday became a rest / explore mini break. We would leave at lunch and spend the afternoon exploring. It goes dark at about 3:30pm in Helsinki. Well at the end of November at least. The first day we mainly went to go and see the National Museum of Finland. It was quite interesting. Starting at the middle ages it showed us how they were all converted to Christianity. It explained about their borders changing, showed how they dressed at different periods and the best bit was when my friend almost fell onto a 17th Century bridal chest!! Hilarious. He looked like a waving turkey because there were signs saying ‘don’t touch’ everywhere and he didn’t think they take kindly to a whole body flop on such an antique!

Saved again with some nifty dancing from him and a whole lot of laughter from us both, we went to find some dinner. We found a pasta / pizza place where you go to the counter and they make it fresh, right there in front of you, including the pasta! Very nice. We also found a pub that was selling alcoholic drinks, including my favourite whiskey for about 6 euros! So it was cheap as well.

We saw some people behind us playing board games and this is usual in Finland, you can just ask at the bar for a board game. They cater for vegan very well! I always struggle getting food but it seemed like vegan was more marketed than vegetarian which in England is the complete opposite. The Karhu beer seems to be everywhere as well and I tried it, it’s quite nice but I rarely drink beer given most are vegan, so unfortunately I can’t go into much detail on beer taste and quality.

On the Saturday we found an Irish bar called Molly Maloney that had live music on. You could play Black Jack (21 or rummy are some other names) as well! Each chip was worth 2euros so a little gambling was going on here. We found the same Black Jack in another bar so I’m assuming it’s popular and normal to gamble in a bar? We didn’t see that many bars and pubs, with limited days and trying not to spend all our money we didn’t explore the pubs as much as we have in other places.

It had a good atmosphere though the Irish bar. Very friendly and it gets busy with a happy atmosphere and great music! We went twice. Rock music is everywhere as well, as Finland is known for it. This was great for me, I love Rock music but my family and friends don’t, so it was so nice to be able to walk around hearing the kind of music I love!

We saw buskers on our second night, very good buskers too! The Christmas decorations seemed to increase in number each night until the night before we came back there were decorated trees, strings of lights about the streets and a shop window had a full little Christmas scene with snow flakes and penguin ornaments.

We saw the cathedral – the main one, there are two. The one that is white on the outside. Getting up to there are some steps, these are quite steep. The Cathedral itself was lovely! It wasn’t decorated like other cathedrals. It wasn’t a mass of ornamental gold and lots of paintings. The walls were a pale sky blue colour and very clean. The main decoration was at the alter with one painting in a gold looking frame. Everything else was fairly simple in its design.

We saw the indoor and outdoor markets. The indoor one is the Old Market and is full of food stalls, there is something for everyone! Kebabs, traditional Finnish food, Chinese, chocolate, condiments, the list goes on! The outdoor markets is the New Market and sells a lot of reindeers things. Reindeer gloves, scarves, throws, poncho’s. Reindeer antlers had been used to make talismans, bottle openers and wine bottle openers to name a few.

The day before coming home (my birthday) we visited the church that was carved from the rocks this was interesting. I like this, the walls inside were all rock, showing how it had been made as a feature. The ceiling reminded my friend of a Japanese hat the ones that look a spherical triangle shape. We were just casually looking around at the upper seating area when they wheeled in a baby grand piano! Three violinist followed, a cellist and a flutist! Next thing four different operatic singers took turns in leading what was obviously an opera practise! Now that is something you don’t see, or rather hear, everyday! They were very good as well! We stayed a little while just listening to them.

On our way back we found out that it was the first day of the Christmas period in Helsinki as a parade went by in the town centre. There was a huge float with dancing women, dressed all in white with tutu’s on it. At the back, marching behind, were men dressed in period style uniform and we realised that they were all meant to be from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker! Then of course Santa in a sleigh followed! From Opera practise to an Opera parade, to Santa Claus – that was a very interesting day!

We saw the Winter garden which is a glass building with lots of exotic cacti and trees and flowers and we saw some parks as well but talking about the opera overshadowed them a little! In the airport on the way back home we passed some Buddhist monks dressed in bright yellow robes. I’m not sure what type of Buddhism they were following yet I’m still researching that but I love anything to do with culture, religion, language etc so I was fascinated!

So I will end this blog with a big thank you to those who sent me to Finland for my birthday and managed to still send me there despite what happened only hours before my flight! It’s a lovely city. I love the language so very much, it sounds quite poetic and I really enjoyed hearing it! I’d recommend Finland to those who don’t mind a cold country for exploring. I’ll definitely be going again, there is so much of the country still to see! I know there’s been no scuba diving related talk here but that was a trip I couldn’t not blog about! 😀

 

Lil Scuba Diver

Passed the Night Diver, Missed the Fireworks!

Well so much to say! I was meant to post a blog about two weeks ago but I forgot! I wrote it and only remembered I hadn’t done the posting part when I was already gearing up for another adventure. So now I have two blogs to write to catch up. One is on my Night Diver course and the Fireworks I missed :/ The other is about my little trip to Finland. So this blog is a quick revisit of my night diver course.

This course has three dives along with the usual theory. The theory I did back in April because I was supposed to the night dives in Malta but unfortunately due to the weather we had to cancel the night diver. I know I probably mentioned this in the Malta blog but I still can’t believe how cold and windy it turned out to be. I packed so many shorts and ended up in gym cycling shorts because they were the longest things I had taken with me :O Lovely country though, I’ll definitely go back! I just might take some leggings and jeans with me next time.

But I digress, my night diver course ended up being in Capernwray. With dive one having been done in Malta over 5 months ago, I redid the first dive. We had to show we could use a compass as we went for a bimble. I’m not going to lie, I can’t use a compass! Feel free to laugh but on my last pleasure dive (after this course) I led myself and two friends into a wall with my navigation skills! It’s safe to say, it took me a lot of concentration to do that part of the course 😛

After assessing your exit points, adding extra lights, making sure you have surface cover etc, the three dives basically ensure that you are can navigate in the dark and use your torch to signal while being careful not to blind people.

The night dives can feel very different because in the light it’s normal to use natural cues to help orient yourself. For example; watching a wall to help judge your rate of descent, or being able to get direction hints from things in the distance or the type of floor your swimming above. In the dark, this is very difficult. You see only as far as your torch can shine and it can feel rather blinkered because your light is a s wide as your torch shine.

My friend found these training dives to be the most peaceful dives she had experienced and would do a night dive again in a heartbeat. A lot of people say they really enjoy the night dives because of that peace it offers. There is a lot of life out there that comes alive at night and it’s a shame I can’t really blog about it. In Malta we didn’t see much give we were in a little bay and the octopus was hiding and this time unfortunately we were in the quarry. The only life we saw was the usual sturgeon, pike and trout but many people night dive for the new array of creatures that come out to feed. Octopus is one of the most popular ones I’ve heard about.

Personally, I learned that I’m not a fan of the night diving but with time and experience I think that will change. I don’t think being in the quarry helped. Seeing the marine life always brings me a sense of tranquillity, the lack of fish made the dives mostly about being the dark and not what you can find in that dark. I was also having trouble with a thermal undersuit I was trying out. It messed up my weighting and buoyancy to the point that I decided to be cold rather than keep going on uncontrolled ascents because the air was getting trapped somewhere. I was eager to keep going though because for Bonfire Night, a night with firework was going on the week after the course ended and I really wanted to attend which meant I needed to be a night diver.

One thing I’ve learned from that course is that to go again with no instructor is something I will do only if I know my dive buddy first and have dived with them quite a few times beforehand. The biggest reason for this is communication.

Communication, I find is difficult anyway. I think hand signals are incredibly limited when you have great visibility and lots of light. My friend who has been my buddy for a while now can tell from my body language when I’m comfortable, when I’m antsy and when I’m plain out not happy or want to end the dive. This is essential and I’m still trying to work out her body language but she is usually more comfortable than me so I don’t see negative emotions from her.

Never the less just by looking at each other we can deduce how the other is doing. We have eye contact and I have a lovely, “what the ?” shrug that she can interpret rather accurately! My buddy is a fast diver, I have to work hard to keep up with her but she always turns to check I’m behind her. I always stay slightly behind her and usually on the right. We face each other on descents and ascents. We ask if each other is OK continually. We’re still learning a lot about each other but the more we dive the more we learn to understand each other on a dive. It’s all about experience.

Night diving make communication so much harder, it instantly made me wary of being in that environment with people I don’t know. For instance, it’s too dark to look back and see if your buddy is still there. I’m a slow diver, if I have a buddy that dives too fast I would soon find myself completely alone and I don’t like the idea of that. Torches are essential and you really need a powerful one! My dive computer will only keep the back light on for a few seconds. I hate that. I hate not seeing my depth, especially if my ears are hurting on a descent.

Given that I was in a group and I don’t like slowing down a group, I was already very slightly nervous to be doing the night dives but I wanted to see the Fireworks, apparently they are so much better to see under water.

I got vertigo on my second dive and I know I was deeper than 6metres and heading to 8metres, but I don’t actually know my depth. I get vertigo a lot on my ascents, my ears aren’t the greatest when it comes to equalising. Vertigo in the middle of a dive though, that was something I certainly was not used to! Everything revolved, it was as if the whole world to literally started moving a quarter of a circle which is very different from my usual dizziness. I don’t know whether it was my ears, or if it was because I was nervous, or if it was the difference between pitch black to the group’s sudden pin points of torch lights. Whatever it was, it sent me into a panic. I was still. I needed to find my buddy so I went over to where I thought she was, fully prepared to say I’m getting out, that I don’t need to pass the course. I’ve had panic before though, enough to be able to work myself through it. I wanted to see the firework, so I had to pass the course. At 8metres I was next to my buddy, taking some deep breaths and talking to myself in my head. I reminded myself that things weren’t spinning anymore, I was with my buddy and an instructor, and we were almost finished with the second dive anyway. I got through the momentary panic after a few minutes and went on to finish that dive, with an instructor right by my side.

My buddy later said that she instantly saw my panic and in her words, I went ‘rigid’. I ‘faff’ with my face when I’m not comfortable and I knew that but I never knew what I did when I hit panic. Apparently, I stop messing with my mask and go rigid. I guess everyone has their quirks!

I did my third dive the week after and apart from my NEW torch breaking just before the dive, I passed the course using a borrowed torch and my own back up! I was proud but even more excited because now I could watch the fireworks in the evening the week later!

The fireworks were something everyone had been telling me about and I was so excited. I went for a pleasure dive before the rest of the group arrived but when I came out and was changing cylinders I noticed that I was dripping blood onto my cylinder!

I had cut my hand under the water but had no idea how or when or what on. I didn’t feel myself getting cut and it didn’t even hurt when I saw the blood all over my hand. Which meant that as I went into the firework dive and felt the water seeping in from the top of my arm downwards, my initial thought of an unclosed zip was coupled with wondering whether or not I had ripped the suit earlier.

I tried to go down for the fireworks but again a lack of communication and a need to explain that my descent would take longer than everyone else because of my ears, meant that I asked to go the surface to explain about my ears. The problem was, that as I made my way up from only about a metre, I felt the water all over my belly and legs and pooling in the bottom of my suit. I asked how good the fireworks were and was told that while they were pretty cool they weren’t worth hypothermia.

Unfortunately, I had to make a very quick decision and I decided, given the pressure to get down quickly, I didn’t want to battle with my ears only to get to the platform and find that I was too cold to sit still for 30 minutes and watch the fireworks. It was the 2nd of November and it is England. Very, very cold water and in a dry suit, there wasn’t even a speck of neoprene to help reduce heat loss.

So I missed the fireworks I persevered so hard to see. It turns out my suit was fine my zip just wasn’t fastened properly. Gutted is the only emotion I had for a little while. I was shivering as I got out of my dry suit but when my feet came out with an accompanying ‘slosh’ sound, I knew I had made the right decision. I was too cold to have continued the dive and would only have gotten colder as more and more water leaked in.

These things happen though. I can’t dwell on what I missed. There will be other firework nights and in the meantime in passed my night course which is another qualification. I took part in some underwater Pumpkin Carving of Halloween the Sunday before the fireworks and in case you weren’t aware of it – there is a PADI Underwater Pumpkin Carving Cert card! I have that as well haha! So it isn’t all bad and my name will be the first on for any future firework displays! 😀

 

Lil Scuba Diver

First Time Surface Cover

I have to say that I’ve never felt more like a diver than when I was out of the water standing on the jetty recording the times that other divers got in. I felt like I was really pitching in; helping the club that had given me the ability to have such a brilliant hobby. I felt like I was ‘taking a turn’ almost at the task that, at first sight, seems to be… the less exciting part of diving.

It wasn’t boring. One of my friends mentioned that they thought surface cover looked boring but recording the divers’ times in and out and watching the surface for bubbles so I knew where they were, meant I had very little time to get bored. I also got to speak to some lovely people.

An open water course was going on that had two children on it, so their parents were on the surface eagerly waiting for their children to come back all happy smiles saying they had done the skills. I got to have a little chat with them and what should have been four dives turned into six for various non problematic reasons so there was always something occupying me.

I was a last minute option I think. A lot of divers were on a trip to Oban for the weekend so I have a feeling that they were looking for a diver who was staying home. Having had no experience in surface cover though, I was surprised they asked me. I soon found out that you don’t need any qualifications as surface cover because if an incident occurred the highest qualified person would take charge. In our case that would be the instructor. So clip board, and numerous sets of car keys later I did my first surface cover in the rain.

Everyone was so considerate of me. It was raining in the car park so my hoodie was on when one of the dive masters gave me a festival poncho, a plastic poncho with hood that I put on to stop my clothes getting too drenched. I did wear it. I did look silly but I didn’t care 😛 Diving comes with the tendency of looking…. Less than glamourous to pretty ridiculous at time. Vanity is something a diver learns to forget after a few months.

The assistant instructor then gave me a tin foil blanket for my legs but I didn’t need it, I got to keep the blanket though, he has loads apparently! And one of the student’s parents lent me an umbrella as well. That was really nice.

I did notice quite a few things on the surface that I had never noticed before in the water;

  • First off I’ve never seen a rebreather except in pictures. That day I counted no less than six.
  • I struggle to distinguish between divers in the water once they are geared up! It’s amazing how much I relied on hair (or lack off) to tell me where the divers were!
  • There is a lot of responsibility, not least is having everyone’s car keys in my pocket!
  • Hoses can be different colours. I saw pink, blue and green. Not so sure I like this, I didn’t think it highlighted the octo as much as it should have. In an emergency I wondered if an out-of-air diver would remember to go for the pink hose or the blue hose. The hoses did look pretty cool though but I’ll personally be sticking to the Standard black with neon yellow octo hose J
  • Everyone is friendly. I was chatting to parents and I saw that in the water other instructors laughing with their students, friends were asking for gear, and people were having just as much fun getting out the water and taking photos as I’m sure they were having under it. It’s really heart-warming to see such a friendly side to people, it just reaffirms what I know about the diving community. It’s the best!
  • And lastly, the instructors, divemasters and assistant instructors, they do so much! I knew that beforehand of course but I think surface cover just keeps a person remembering that!

I actually really enjoyed my day as surface cover, I would definitely do it again. That doesn’t mean I haven’t already planned my next dive though! 😀

Lil Scuba Diver

Women’s Dive Day and a Spanish Mini Break

So Women’s dive day was two weeks ago now but since then I’ve been in Spain for 5 days. So lots to blog about here 😀

The official women’s dive day was Saturday 16th but there was a rescue course on that day, which I was a part of, so the club I’m a part of, decided to stretch it out across the weekend. Excellent!

Some men has decided to join us because us women know how to have fun and of course they had to join in 😛 Saturday we were back in Capernwray looking at some of the wreaks as part of a big group of us. That was really fun and we even had pink t shirts to wear for when we were out of the water!

The rest of the day was then either people going for pleasure dives or the rescue course. So it was Sunday 17th that was turned out to be the real women’s day for us. We went to Porth Dafarch in Angelsey which I’ve blogged about before. Again men were welcome two of which were in charge of the barbecue and the pink t shirts were compulsory for both genders! 😀

It was a lovely warm day and we were all free to buddy up and go exploring the little cove as we wished. I love Jellyfish, I think I’ve mentioned that quite a bit in my blogs, so when we saw a few of them we were off. My friend led the way to where there were tens of them all clinging to the kelp on the bottom. I think from a little research they are moon jellyfish. They were clear with purple horseshoe shaped patterns in the middle. I thought the purple looked like the outline of a drawn flower. So pretty. I saw one, a clear on again but it was trimmed with brown are the bottom edge of the bell body. That doesn’t sound like the description for a moon jellyfish but as of yet I don’t know all the types of jellyfish so I have my homework all sorted out haha.

I would recommend this place if you like jellyfish or are curious about them. They are all relatively small. I’ve seen them with the bell about a 5 pence piece then bigger ones that are still no bigger than half the size of my palm. It’s very shallow, no deeper than about 6 / 7 metres for the cove part. A little further out I believe there is a wreak, still fairly shallow but I have yet to go to the wreak – the jellyfish distracted us that day! Some saw lobsters around the rocks and i think someone saw a crab so there’s a little bit to see if you want a relaxing explore around a welsh cove.

No dive is complete however without food! Barbecue was on the menu for lunch and being a vegan I was very happily surprised that I had been taken into account and veggies had been bought for veggi kebabs 😀 For a day that started at 5am it was well worth it!

And then I was getting myself ready for 5 days in Cehegin in Spain for a friend’s birthday. We were mostly together in a villa celebrating his birthday but we did go and see the Liquor 43 factory in Cartagena.

The best part of our limited sightseeing however was visiting the Salto del Usero in Bullas. It’s a waterfall from the Mula River, creates a swimming hole. All around is rock, it was as if we were in an open cavern. It wasn’t anything big but it was beautiful and the sound of the waterfall was loud! I tried to swim over to the waterfall to get underneath it or at least as close as possible but even though it was only a small one, it created a current so strong it pushed me back away from it.

The water was freezing! I mean really really cold! We tip toed in and took a deep breath when it hit our thighs, the higher it got the less breath we wanted to take in case we disturbed the water! In the end we took the plunge, got used to the coldness and went for a nice swim. There are a few picture of this lovely place underneath.

The night before this we slept on sun loungers and looked up at the sky to gaze at the stars and the milky way. We were so far away from a busy town that there were lots of stars to see, many more than what I’m used to back at home. The constant sound of crickets was comforting and the sound of croaking frogs somewhere in the distance surprised me by how loud they were! Despite all the sound, including barking dogs, that night outside was a great experience, next time though I might consider a thicker blanket!

On the whole it’s been a brilliant couple of weeks and I just had to share it in a blog. Next on the list now, is organising my next dive!

 

Lil Scuba Diver

 

 

All Fingers and Thumbs on the DSMB Course!

So last weekend was my DSMB course, delayed surface marker buoy and for this there were two dives. It wasn’t the most challenging of courses but it’s one you need if you’re going to be diving in the sea and it did require having to be careful throughout.

So the way we were taught to arrange out DSMB and reel was with the DSMB tied using bungee to the bottom of the BCD so it sits on the small of your back. This keeps your trim good and reduces drag but it easy to access. The reel is then clipped onto a D ring on the BCD.

Dive one: we descended to about 9m, kneel down and using a stage to represent the Octo (to avoid any of our actual Octo’s free flowing on the training dive) we deployed the DSMB using this method. So a few bubbles from the Regulator we’re breathing from into the DSMB to make it stand up, then attached the DSMB to the reel and then use the Octo from the stage to fill it with enough air, so when we let go up it goes standing nicely firm at the surface. Feel free to add whatever innuendo’s come to mind at this point, there were a few jokes going around on the day!

Sounds simple this method. It’s not.

Well it is, but I was all fingers and thumbs with it being my first time attempting this. Having to hold a DSMB, a reel, an Octo and remembering to dump air from your BCD all together takes a little brain power! I couldn’t keep the DSMB open and I felt like I was taking an age to fill it. Practise will quicken me up I think. I was also wearing 5mm gloves as well, so feeling a little fingers and thumbs I think is fairly normally for a first attempt. But I did it and that’s what matters.

Next after the Divemaster has gone up, let the air out and we’ve reeled in the DSMB we do it again but this time instead of using the Octo, we use the bubbles from the regulator. This is much easier! No juggling necessary, just make sure to keep enough distance from DSMB and regulator to not get it caught on any of your gear. I liked that way, that way felt much easier even though the first way wasn’t particularly hard just had more ‘faffing’ to it.

Dive one over we enjoyed a cup of tea in the café and prepared for dive two. Using whatever method we preferred, Octo or bubbles, we were going to send the DSMB up whilst hovering and at a depth of about 14metres give or take. We were aiming to do it near a sunken plane.

My dive two started out with me falling, backwards, cylinder and head first over a ledge. I believe the technical term for the position in which your cylinder seems to have rolled you over is, “turtling”. I call I my accidental attempt more like “dying ant impression”. 😀 Not my most graceful of descents I will admit!

I had my buddy thoroughly amused and my core strength definitely needs building up after my sustained flailing didn’t help so much in turning me the right way up! All experience is good experience though, I did eventually manage to right myself once I’d paused, stopped squirming and thought through how to turn myself over. The rest of the descent happened much more gracefully I’m pleased to say.

We ended up kneeling on the wing of an aeroplane for the demonstration and I have to say, being able to say that I was sat on the wing of a plane is definitely a highlight of my diving. I was pretty taken with this part of the dive!

I chose to send my DSMB up using the bubbles method and I did do it whilst hovering, well, more or less, I did have to let out some air out from my BCD when I started floating up a bit but it was fairly successful. The line of the reel had wound itself just one turn around the reel so when I sent up the DSMB my first thought was, “oops”, my second thought didn’t even occur because I had gently flicked the line which immediately sorted everything out and the DSMB was deployed with no trouble. Excellent. If that hadn’t have worked, I would have been letting go of that reel when the DSMB went rocketing up. They go up so fast!

We finished that dive with a little bimble around, down and over the plane to get us all used to reeling in and letting out the line. I clocked 14m when I deployed it and I passed the course. Excellent. I then went back to the dive centre to hand in loaned gear and was roped into signing on for the rescue course!

Well I hadn’t contemplated doing this rescue course…. Ever. I don’t like “personal bubble invasion” especially with people I don’t know but diving seems to be pushing all my limits, social, physical, mental, everything and I suppose it is a good thing. I was told this rescue course will be hard but so much fun. And rewarding. My friend was signed up for it and I can jump on her course so I wouldn’t be with all strangers. Even better is that I know the instructor and she is brilliant so all my arguments for wanting to wait a while, seemed to go out of the window when 4 Instructors, 2 Divemasters and 2 other divers were all telling me this.

In the end, they got me signed up explaining the value of such a course. Self-rescue, preventing problems and being able to help your buddy are skills that you can’t really do without, especially since I intend to work up to being a cave diver. I need this course really and I understand the benefits of having it under my belt.

So, I passed one course and signed up for another and I’m now working my way through the manual for the rescue course. There are two theory and two pool sessions followed by open water dives to complete the course. All of this will be taking place over the course of three weekends so that should keep me busy!

I’m going to end by saying I’m so happy I’ve just bought a camera with an underwater case for it! In colloquial terms, “ten ton” of courses and a camera later, I am certainly feeling like I’ve been diving years, never mind 6 months!

 

Lil Scuba Diver

A Capernwray Dive

Being up at 7am to be ready for 8am on a Sunday morning is pretty hard for a night owl like me but I was going diving so I’ll let it slide. I went to a place called Capernwray. It’s a flooded quarry that has purposely sunken planes, boats, fairground carousel horses and much more. It’s basically a diver’s playground! There are also training platforms at 2metres and 6metres. This is where I got my open water qualification from and I have done many a mask flood and fin pivot on these platforms already and my dive life has only just started!

Of all the hobbies I picked, I had to pick the one designed for an early bird! An early bird with good biceps for all the lifting that is required! I made it though, I was picked up at 8am all ready and raring to go. This dive for me felt like a particularly important one. The goal for me was to hopefully become comfortable in the reduced visibility that comes with diving here in the UK. I passed my advanced and deep dive in Malta with brilliant visibility. This was a dive was with a friend I trusted and had done a lot of training with, so we sort of knew how each other dived but even so this was our first time with no instructor in the water.

It was a lovely day for diving, very warm. I think was about 25 degrees outside and the water temperature was about 12 to 14 degrees which was great! That’s still dry suit, hood and gloves weather but at least it shows promise of days to come when a dry suit isn’t needed.

While we were gearing up three swans flew over our heads so close I could almost feel the wind from their wings! They made a lot of noise and I can honestly say I could have reached up and touched them they were flying that low. Incredible. That made us all pause for a few seconds to watch them as they flew off.

My friend wanted to see the thunderbird 4; a replica of the model from the tv show. I wanted to see one of the horses that had come from a fairground so we planned a dive that was fairly straight forward. A there and back again dive that by-passed the horse as we made for the thunderbird 4. We were told we could find other things around that area if we used all sort of bearings but we decided to just get in, make for the thunderbird and just have a nice, easy dive.

To our surprise however, we ended up seeing quite a lot! We saw the horse first and I wasn’t prepared for how comical it looked! It sort of looked like it was laughing which made me start giggling away to myself in the water. I stood right next to it to measure myself against it, I had no idea it was be as big as it was. I’m 4 foot 11 and it was about my height and that plus some, length wise. So pretty big!

We saw an Apecks van, made it to the Thunderbird 4, saw a boat we were not expecting and then had no idea which way was back! All of this was at 6 metres so we popped up to the surface to get our bearings before going back down. We had got slightly confused and gone back on ourselves but weren’t too far from the exit. On the way back we unexpectedly by-passed the second horse, this time it was reading a newspaper! I’m rather unobservant so I missed the devil statue that was just behind it but my friend saw it.

Of the wildlife we saw, I was really not expecting sturgeon to be that big! I’ve never seen a sturgeon fish before and didn’t know they could grow so much. They must get fed steroids or something! Jet black with a curl to the nose, it looked slightly evil as if it was snarling.

There was also brown and rainbow trout, also on steroids J Then my favourite from this quarry was Perch. I saw quite a lot of them. They have what looks like tiger stripes on their bodies but I really like that their fins were orange. I was constantly on the lookout for these Perch fish. I thought at one point that I was a little too close to the floor and worrying that I might be kicking up the sand yet this Perch just decided to swim right underneath me, totally not bothered by me or my fins. It just bimbled about as if saying, “move this is my home I’m swimming here”. That made me smile a little.

I did learn one lesson during the dive though. I find that latex neck seals on a dry suit make me gag when I’m not in the water. I have my own dry suit on order with a neoprene neck seal to combat this but as I was under the water trying to equalise my ears I found myself gagging a little. Thinking nothing unusual about it except that it doesn’t usually happen underwater, I later took off the dry suit to find my beads still around my neck! Definitely not recommended! I’m thinking they may have contributed to my momentary gagging. No more bead wearing on dive days for health and safety reasons! Sometimes it’s best not to learn the hard way but let’s just say I won’t be forgetting to take off my jewellery any time soon!

In short, it was a very exciting dive and I saw much more than I was expecting. I’ve been in Capernwray quite a few times now and I have never seen as many fish as I did this weekend. The visibility ranged from 6 to 10 metres which was much better than I was thought we would get. I was actually quite pleased with how good the visibility was.

I had a brilliant day and the warm weather made it even better and really helped my tan / burn along as well! Club dive is on the cards for next week now.

 

Lil Scuba Diver